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Who Let the Dogs Out?
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

YEAR OF THE DOG
FIREHOUSE DOG
ADAM'S APPLES (Adams aebler)
THE FINAL INQUIRY
HIDDEN SECRETS
CHRISTA McAULIFFE: REACH FOR THE STARS
SECRET FILES OF THE INQUISITION
FILM CAPSULES
CATHOLIC CLASSIFICATIONS



YEAR OF THE DOG

YEAR OF THE DOG (A-3, PG-13): Peggy (Molly Shannon) is a 40-ish unmarried secretary. She lives quietly with her beloved dog, Pencil, who dies after being accidentally poisoned by a neighbor (John C. Reilly, Chicago).

Peggy grows fond of Newt (Peter Sarsgaard, Garden State), an SPCA worker, at the same time she becomes a vegan and a PETA activist. She alienates her family when she takes a niece to an animal-rescue ranch. Peggy’s boss, Robin (Josh Pais), is boring, a reflection of Peggy’s life.

This not-quite-a-comedy from writer/director Mike White (The School of Rock) is about a woman on the verge of finding meaning in her otherwise dull life. On the surface, Peggy is ordinary. But she discovers through trial and error that there are all kinds of ways of loving in the world.

Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet will empathize with the lonely Peggy. Molly Shannon, of Saturday Night Live fame, shows considerable talent playing her role with restraint and heart. Mild profanity and sexual innuendo.

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FIREHOUSE DOG

FIREHOUSE DOG (A-2, PG): Rex is a pampered canine celebrity who accidentally falls out of a plane while shooting a commercial. He lands in a truckload of tomatoes and loses his hairpiece.

Unrecognizable, Rex is carried away into the city, where a firefighter named Connor Fahey (Bruce Greenwood, Racing Stripes) rescues the lost pooch and takes him home.

Connor and his son, Shane (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia, RV), have a strained relationship: Shane’s mom left when he was a toddler, and recently his uncle died with the firehouse mascot in a suspicious blaze.

Rex is renamed “Dewey.” He adapts to life at the fire station, including the Spam soup created by firefighter Joe (Bill Nunn, Sister Act). The future of the station is threatened by a mysterious series of fires. Dewey saves the day, the firehouse and a family.

Firehouse Dog is entertaining, even if it is formulaic. There are some intense scenes that make it more appealing to young adolescents than small children, yet the dog’s antics (including the requisite canine farts) cut across generational lines. I enjoyed the faux funeral Rex’s owner had for him because the fast-food Chihuahua and insurancecompany duck were in attendance.

Television director Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle, Felicity) helmed this fun family-values flick that won’t make it on anyone’s best-film list. Some problem language and peril.

ADAM’S APPLES (Adams æbler) (not rated, R) is a Danish film that focuses on Adam Pedersen (Ulrich Thomsen, Kingdom of Heaven), a neo-Nazi paroled to a rural Christian parish to do community service. He becomes wary of the pastor, Ivan (Mads Mikklesen), who has an eccentric and religious way of dealing with everything. Ivan assigns Adam to keep an eye on the apple tree.

The pastor’s community is populated by parolees who seem like characters straight out of the Gospels, including a murderer, a thief and an adulterer, as well as rebels and infirm people. But Ivan does not see people the way others do. Adam thinks Ivan is in denial.

Adam and Ivan exist in parallel universes. Yet Ivan’s psychological weakness becomes Adam’s spiritual strength and evokes a touching generosity that the neo-Nazi seems incapable of at the beginning.

Ivan is a Christ figure, Adam’s redeemer; Adam is transformed when Ivan has a near-death experience. Sinfulness is astonished by saving grace.

Adam’s Apples is a dark comedy that is inherently Christian, sacramental, inspiring and surprising. It’s the kind of story Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) might write if she were alive. (Danish with English subtitles.) Violence and problem language.

THE FINAL INQUIRY (not rated, PG-13): In what could be called CSI: Jerusalem, Fox Faith’s New Testament-era drama-romance has Tiberius Caesar (Max von Sydow) sending a tribune named Tauro (Daniele Liotti) undercover to find the tomb and body of Jesus.

Tauro falls in love with a beautiful Jewish girl but her father (F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus) resists. Tauro’s inquiry includes an interview with Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov, reprising his role from The Passion of the Christ).

The investigation provides a way to tell the Christian story. Although the direction is uneven, it is an unexpectedly watchable movie. Italian actor Liotti is excellent. Battle violence.

HIDDEN SECRETS: A group of Christians gather for the funeral of a friend who has committed suicide. The friends and family members range from an atheist to a woman who epitomizes the fundamentalist Christian stereotype (she judges everyone).

The film deals with abortion, homosexuality and other challenging issues. The promotional material protests too much that this is not a preachy Christian film, but that is what it is.

I did not find this film compelling or inviting. Films succeed when they tell a good story well; they fail to impress when they are more concerned with message than story.

CHRISTA McAULIFFE: REACH FOR THE STARS: Twenty-one years after her death in the Challenger disaster, the story of the first civilian chosen to go into space as a NASA astronaut continues to inspire young and old alike. Christa, the primary candidate for NASA’s first Teacher in Space Project, was among the seven-member crew who died when the space shuttle exploded.

This 75-minute documentary that premiered at the Newport Beach International Film Festival in 2006 is narrated by Academy Award-winner Susan Sarandon. It includes warm and revealing interviews with Christa’s mother and siblings, fellow teachers and the nuns at Marian Catholic High School in Framingham, Massachusetts, where Christa went to school.

The footage from Christa’s life as an enthusiastic student, mother, wife, teacher and astronaut-in-training makes it seem as if she is speaking to us today. The title song was written and performed by Carly Simon, Christa’s favorite artist. For additional information, visit www.teacher1986.com.

SECRET FILES OF THE INQUISITION (PBS, check local listings): This fascinating four-part docudrama airing in May reveals for the first time some of the contents of the Vatican-held records about the Inquisition as well as a history of the files themselves.

Episode 1 begins in medieval France with the Albigensian (or Cathari) heresy, rooted in Gnosticism. Episode 2 covers 15th-century Spain and the manipulation of the Inquisition by the state. Episode 3 describes the Church and the Inquisition in Renaissance Italy.

Episode 4 tells the intriguing story of the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old Jewish boy, by agents of the Inquisition: A former maid claimed she had baptized the boy, and Pope Pius IX, as head of the Papal States, believed he could not let the baptized child remain with his own Jewish family. This episode includes accounts of the Inquisition in 19th-century Europe, in addition to Napoleon’s theft of the Inquisition files.

I was captivated by the first-person accounts of people who suffered from the Inquisition. But the commentaries offered by experts were uneven, as if some were cut off too soon.

The series includes what seems like carefully selected commentary by Dominican Father Joseph Di Noia, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the current office that succeeded the Holy Office for the Inquisition in 1908). But his remarks have little significant insight until the final segment: No doubt, he had much more to tell.

It was filmed in high-definition and is well worth the time to watch. For additional information or to purchase the DVD, go to www.pbs.org or www.inquisitionproductions.com.

 

DISTURBIA (A-3, PG-13): Shia LaBeouf (Holes, Bobby) plays Kale, a high school student who is sentenced to house arrest and must wear an ankle monitor for the summer because he hit a teacher. In a modern version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Kale and his girlfriend watch the neighbors and become suspicious of one in particular. LaBeouf is excellent. His adolescent attempts at housekeeping and efforts at romance will make this hero appealing to teens. Intense crime thriller and a good watch; some crude language.

BLADES OF GLORY (A-3; PG-13) Will Ferrell (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Stranger Than Fiction) and Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) play opponents who become the first male skating pair so they can compete in the Olympics after being disqualified as single skaters because of brawling. Ferrell is uncouth and Heder more refined. Ferrell’s act of friendship does little to save this lowbrow buddy film.

PEACEFUL WARRIOR (not yet rated, PG-13) is based on gymnast-turned-motivational speaker Dan Millman’s 1980 semi-autobiographical novel, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. This murky film is a series of philosophical self-help clichés that emerge from the story of a gymnast who shatters his leg and wills himself back into shape to qualify for the Olympics. Nick Nolte plays Millman’s friend Socrates. Slow going.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

USCCB Movie Review Line: 1-800-311-4222, www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm

At www.CatholicMovieReviews.org, readers can search Sister Rose's and hundreds of other film reviews.

 


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